Illustration of Wii characters from Wii Sports
Players are finding that their Wii Sports skills are a bit rusty after spending years forgetting that the game exists. (Illustration by Molly Posten, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

How Wii Sports Has Stood the Test of Time

The pandemic caused people to dust off their Nintendos and start a good ol’ bowling match, but will the classic game reach newer consoles?

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Illustration of Wii characters from Wii Sports

The pandemic caused people to dust off their Nintendos and start a good ol’ bowling match, but will the classic game reach newer consoles?

Desperate for a source of entertainment and distraction during the pandemic, rather than turning to classics like Monopoly, people found themselves reaching for their old Nintendo Wii consoles. It may have been coated in dust and cobwebs from being in the attic for years, but the ancient hardware miraculously still works. After charging up the old remotes and sorting through game discs, one is met with an overwhelming rush of nostalgia.

That blue disc with the words “Wii Sports” is enough to bring memories flooding back, like that time your competitive brother got a little too close and broke the TV screen or the sports tournaments you had with your cousins as you waited for Christmas dinner to be served. Returning to this classic, treasured game is just what people need to bring joy back into their lives.

Wii Sports was released in November 2006, making it just over 15 years old. By the end of 2007, it became the best-selling Wii game, and over a million copies were sold in Japan alone. In North America, Wii Sports was bundled with the Wii system, which provided new players with the opportunity to explore the controls before taking on more difficult games like Mario Kart. The game became so popular that it was listed in the 2010 book “1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die” by Tony Mott, and — as of March 31, 2021 — Wii Sports had sold over 82.90 million copies. It is currently ranked at the fourth best-selling video game of all time, sitting just under Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto V and Tetris.

The game is a collection of five different sports simulations: tennis, baseball, bowling, golf and boxing. Using the motion-sensor remote, players mimic the actions of these sports such as swinging a baseball bat or throwing a bowling ball. On an episode of “The Colbert Report” in 2006, Stephen Colbert challenged Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to a boxing match. As much as we would all love to see this competition go down, video evidence of this episode is mysteriously missing from the internet. Later, in a 2007 episode of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” Conan O’Brien competed head-to-head with the tennis legend Serena Williams. It was a close match, but O’Brien emerged with an upset victory.

Wii Sports monitors each player’s progress, awarding them with skill points when they win and docking them down when they lose. After earning 1,000 skill points in a sport, players get upgraded to the “pro” level status and unlock features like the glorious sparkly bowling ball and the silver boxing gloves. Of course, today, it seems that players are a bit rusty with their skills and are having difficulties meeting their old records.

Unlike most video games that rely on players sinking into the couch, the nature of Wii Sports gets people standing and involved in physical exercise. Wii Sports games call for players to move their body similarly to movement exercises in physical therapy, which is why several physical therapists are incorporating “Wiihabilitation” into patient recovery in the United States and in several other countries such as Canada and Germany. “Patients become so engrossed mentally they’re almost oblivious to the rigor,” said James Osborn, a physical therapist at a rehabilitation center in southern Illinois. Creating a space for competition can take the pain and monotony out of stretching and lifting, improving patients’ strength, endurance and coordination.

Due to Wii Sports’ instantaneous popularity, Nintendo released Wii Sports Resort in 2009. Along with the fan favorites of bowling and golf, Nintendo introduced 11 new games like basketball, cycling, swordplay and archery. With Wii Sports Resort, Nintendo created the “MotionPlus” extension that enhances accuracy. For example, players could now have better control of adding spin to the ball in games like table tennis and bowling. A week after its release, Nintendo had already sold over 500,000 copies of the game in North America.

Considering how popular these classic games are, why haven’t we seen a version of Wii Sports on newer consoles like the Nintendo Switch? The answer is that we already have — sort of. One Switch game that goes by the name Go Vacation is like the dollar store version of Wii Sports Resort, including games such as skydiving, horseback riding and skateboarding. It got surprisingly decent reviews from critics and players but didn’t get enough recognition to be considered a good Wii Sports substitute.

Nintendo released a new game for the Switch called Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics last June. The game is a successor to the Clubhouse Games from 2005, originally created for the Nintendo DS. As the title indicates, there is a compilation of 51 games that mainly focus on the tabletop experience. Among some of the favorites are air hockey, mancala, solitaire and billiards. It also brings back Wii classics like bowling, archery and tanks. The majority of players enjoyed the game and left kind reviews, but they still weren’t completely satisfied.

At this point, Switch players are starting to lose hope. Although the Nintendo Switch is still rather new and there is still plenty of life in the console, the Switch controls are not up to par for a Wii Sports-type game that blows veterans out of the water. For starters, the Switch does not have the Wii remote’s pointer functionality, which would make several sports inaccurate to the player’s movements. The Switch has motions controls that would make Switch Sports possible, but the Switch joy-cons are not as motion geared as Wii controllers. The joy-cons are notorious for what players call joy-con drift. After several lawsuits, Nintendo has agreed to fix Switch controllers experiencing drift for free, but until the design changes, the problem will continue.

Another reason why people aren’t expecting a Switch Sports game is that the Switch lacks the capacity for more social and minigame-style experiences. The name “Wii” audibly resembles the English word “We,” as in people playing together. Games on the Switch, however, are typically reserved for those who enjoy playing alone.

The reason why the Wii is held so close to gamers’ hearts is because of the way it brings people together, as the console’s simple gameplay gives people the chance to establish blossoming relationships with other players. Despite different tastes in video games, everyone can enjoy games like Wii Sports. Now more than ever, it would be delightful to see the Nintendo Switch come out with more games you can play with friends and family as they come to visit. People who have forgotten how to socialize during the pandemic can easily bond with their visitors by shoving a remote in their hand and relaxing with some easy, entertaining gameplay — just make sure you slip on the safety wrist strap and hold on tight.

Writer Profile

Jenna Amore

Oakland University
English

Hello! I’m a senior at Oakland University in Michigan with an English major. I enjoy writing nonfiction and dystopian science fiction. I’m excited Study Breaks is giving me the opportunity to write for them!

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